Saturday, 22 February 2014

our ancestors were crazy

I was gazing over an old bookshelf the other day at the family estate in the wild westernmost corner of commuter-belt East Anglia and I noticed for the first time in many years my father's collection of books by John O'Hara.

Among the reviews on the covers: John O'Hara is the greatest living novelist, New York Times. Moreover, lots of his books have been released as modern classics by different imprints, although I bet that very few people I know have read any, and nor have I although I am going to start.

His first book was Appointment in Samarra, and that's one of the two I know something about, the other being BUtterfield 8 (sic. - the capital U is there for reasons to do with telephone exchanges but it looks so bad that publishers almost always capitalise the whole world). Anyway, what I'm saying is John O'Hara was posh, and his reviews were often very excellent, and they came from places like the New York Times.

I have partly blethering on at length so that you will be surprised by the staggeringly dreadful covers which are far enough down the page for you not to have seen them yet. And I have started with the one that isn't quite so bad so I can preserve that surprise.

My wife would let me sit next to her reading Dorothy Dunnett books (see previous post) every day if she could avoid sitting next to me reading the below edition of Hellbox (which is the book, staggeringly, with the NYT quote of the cover). Another edition of Hellbox on Amazon has the slightly less appealing line above the title: All of the passions, sacred and profane, etched in acid by one of the great virile authors of our time! I think Ourselves to Know is the worst of these, but it's a grim collection.

This is what posh books looked like in the seventies, people. It beggars belief. Ten North Frederick is a Penguin Classic.







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